Isaiah 19:7
The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks, and every thing sown by the brooks, shall wither, be driven away, and be no more.
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(7) The paper reeds by the brooks.—Better, the meadows by the Nile. And so in the other clauses, the Hebrew word for “brooks” being used specifically for that river. For “shall wither and be driven away,” read, shall dry up and vanish. The valley of the Nile is to become as parched and barren as the desert on either side of it.

19:1-17 God shall come into Egypt with his judgments. He will raise up the causes of their destruction from among themselves. When ungodly men escape danger, they are apt to think themselves secure; but evil pursues sinners, and will speedily overtake them, except they repent. The Egyptians will be given over into the hand of one who shall rule them with rigour, as was shortly after fulfilled. The Egyptians were renowned for wisdom and science; yet the Lord would give them up to their own perverse schemes, and to quarrel, till their land would be brought by their contests to become an object of contempt and pity. He renders sinners afraid of those whom they have despised and oppressed; and the Lord of hosts will make the workers of iniquity a terror to themselves, and to each other; and every object around a terror to them.The paper reeds - (ערות ‛ârôt). This is not the word which occurs in Isaiah 18:2, and which, it is supposed, means there the papyrus (see the note on that place). Interpreters have been divided in regard to the meaning of the word here. Gesenius derives it from ערה ‛ârâh, "to be naked, open, bare;" and supposes that it means an open place, a place naked of wood, and that it here denotes the pastures on the banks of the Nile. So Rosenmuller interprets it of the green pastures on the banks of the Nile; and the Hebrew commentators generally so understand it. The Vulgate renders it, 'And the bed (alveus) of the river shall be dried up from the fountain.' So the Chaldee, 'And their streams shall be desolate.' It probably denotes, not paper reeds, but the green pastures that were beside the brooks, or along the banks of the Nile.

By the brooks - Hebrew, 'Rivers' (יארי ye'orēy). By the 'brooks' here, in the plural number, the prophet probably means the artificial canals which were cut in every direction from the Nile for the purpose of conveying the waters to various parts of the land.

By the mouth of the brooks - At the mouth of the canals, or where they emptied into the Nile. Such meadows, being "near" the Nile, and most sure of a supply of water, would be more valuable than those which were remote, and are, therefore, particularly specified.

Shall wither ... - That is, there shall be utter and entire desolation. If the Nile ceased to overflow; if the streams, reservoirs, and canals, could not be filled, this would follow as a matter of course. Everything would dry up.

7. paper-reeds—rather, pastures, literally, "places naked" of wood, and famed for rich herbage, on the banks of the Nile [Gesenius]. Compare Ge 13:10; De 11:10. Horsley translates, "nakedness upon the river," descriptive of the appearance of a river when its bottom is bare and its banks stripped of verdure by long drought: so Vulgate.

the brooks—the river.

mouth—rather, "the source" [Vulgate]. "Even close to the river's side vegetation shall be so withered as to be scattered in the shape of powder by the wind" (English Version, "driven away") [Horsley].

The paper reeds; which by a needle, or other fit instrument, were divided into thin and broad leaves, which being dried and fitted, were used at that time for writing, as our paper is; and consequently was a very good commodity.

Sown by the brooks; and much more what was sown in more dry and unfruitful places. The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks,.... Not at the fountain or origin of the Nile and its streams, but by the sides thereof; on the banks of which grew a reed or rush, called by the Greeks "papyrus" and "biblus"; from whence come the words "paper" and "bible", or book, of which paper was anciently made; even as early as the times of Isaiah, and so, many hundreds of years before the times of Alexander the great, to which some fix the era of making it.

"According to Pliny (d), its root is of the thickness of a man's arm, and ten cubits long; from this arise a great number of triangular stalks, six or seven cubits high, each thick enough to be easily spanned. Its leaves are long, like those of the bulrush; its flowers stamineous, ranged in clusters at the extremities of the stalks; its roots woody and knotty, like those of rushes; and its taste and smell near akin to those of the cyprus.----The manner of making the Egyptian paper was this: they began with lopping off the two extremes of the "papyrus", viz. the head and root, as of no use in this manufacture; the remaining stem they slit lengthwise, into equal parts; and from each of these they stripped the thin scaly coats, or pellicles, whereof it was composed, with a point of a penknife (or needle, as some); the innermost of these pellicles were looked on as the best, and those nearest the rind or bark the worst; they were kept apart accordingly, and constituted different sorts of paper. As the pellicles were taken off, they extended them on a table; then two or more of them were laid over each other transversely, so as that their fibres made right angles; in this state they were glued together by the muddy waters of the Nilus. These being next pressed to get out the water, then dried, and lastly flatted and smoothed, by beating them with a mallet, constituted paper; which they sometimes polished further, by rubbing it with a hemisphere of glass, or the like. There were paper manufactures in divers cities of Egypt; but the greatest and most celebrated was that at Alexandria, where, according to Varro's account, paper was first made. The trade and consumption of this commodity were in reality incredible. Vopiscus relates, that the tyrant Firmus, who rebelled in Egypt, publicly declared he would maintain an army only, "papyro et glutine", with paper and glue (e).''

So that the withering and drying up of these paper reeds, here threatened, must be a great calamity upon the nation. And, besides paper, of this rush or reed were made sails, ropes, and other naval rigging, as also mats, blankets, clothes, and even ships were made of the stalk of the papyrus; and the Egyptian priests wore shoes made of it (f). It may be observed, that paper was made of the pellicles or little skins stripped off of the inside of the stem of the papyrus; which shows with what propriety the word (g) for paper reeds is here used, which comes from a root which signifies to strip or make bare, and from which also is derived a word which signifies a skin.

And everything sown by the brooks shall wither, be driven away, and be no more; all sorts of fruitful plants, and grain of every kind, hemp and flax, after mentioned, and which are opposed to reeds and rushes, which grew of themselves; and if these which were sown by the sides of brooks and rivers withered and came to nothing, then much more what was sown at a greater distance.

(d) Nat Hist. l. 13. c. 11. (e) Chambers's Cyclopaedia, in the word "Paper". (f) Herodot, Euterpe, sive l. 2. c. 37. (g) "ad" "nudari, inde" "pellis".

The paper reeds by the brooks, by the {g} mouth of the brooks, and every thing sown by the brooks, shall wither, be driven away, and be no more.

(g) The Hebrew word is mouth, by which they mean the spring out of which the water gushes as out of a mouth.

7. The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks] Usually rendered as in R.V., “The meadows by the Nile, by the brink of the Nile.” The word for “meadows,” which does not occur again, is supposed to mean literally “bare place,” hardly a suitable designation! A safer translation would be, Bare places are on the Nile, on the (very) brink of the Nile. The LXX. has an entirely different text, which might suggest: “Bare is all verdure on the brink of the Nile.”

every thing sown] A unique term. Perhaps “seed-field,” but note the verb “driven away” which follows. “Seed-field of the Nile” might mean the alluvial deposit produced by the inundation, which is the source of Egypt’s fertility.Verse 7. - The paper reeds by the brooks, etc.; rather, the meadows on the river, along the banks of the river, and every seed-plot by the river. The banks of the Nile were partly grass-land (Genesis 41:2, 18), partly cultivated in grain or vegetables (Herod., 2:14), in either case producing the most luxuriant crops. All, however, depended on the inundation, and if that failed, or so far as it failed, the results predicted by the prophet would happen. The oracle opens with a short introduction, condensing the whole of the substance of the first half into a few weighty words - an art in which Isaiah peculiarly excelled. In this the name of Egypt, the land without an equal, occurs no less than three times. "Behold, Jehovah rideth upon a light cloud, and cometh to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt shake before Him, and the heart of Egypt melteth within it." Jehovah rides upon clouds when He is about to reveal Himself in His judicial majesty (Psalm 18:11); and in this instance He rides upon a light cloud, because it will take place rapidly. The word kal signifies both light and swift, because what is light moves swiftly; and even a light cloud, which is light because it is thin, is comparatively עב, i.e., literally dense, opaque, or obscure. The idols of Egypt shake נוּע, as in Isaiah 6:4; Isaiah 7:2), because Jehovah comes over them to judgment (cf., Exodus 12:12; Jeremiah 46:25; Ezekiel 30:13): they must shake, for they are to be thrown down; and their shaking for fear is a shaking to their fall נוּע, as in Isaiah 24:20; Isaiah 29:9). The Vav apodosis in ונעוּ together the cause and effect, as in Isaiah 6:7. - In what judgments the judgment will be fulfilled, is now declared by the majestic Judge Himself.
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